NIGERIA currently has a total of 415 grazing reserves of which only two are located in the south of the country according to the department of animal husbandry services in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In the throes of an insecurity crisis brought about by the activities of Fulani cattle herdsmen, Nigeria is wracked by incessant clashes between pastoralists and rural farmers. Due to the fact that there is still widespread open grazing in Nigeria, these cattle destroy crops and when the farmers complain, the herdsmen respond brutally with bloody reprisals, attacking villages, sometimes leaving dozens dead.
To end the menace, governors of the 17 southern states in Nigeria recently passed a resolution banning open grazing at a recent summit in Asaba, the Delta State capital. In a communique issued after their meeting, the Southern Governors Forum said that as from henceforth, it would be illegal to engage in open grazing in any of their states.
Testifying about the matter before the Nigerian senate yesterday, Winnie Lai- Solarin, the director of the agriculture ministry’s department of animal husbandry, said Nigeria has 415 grazing reserves scattered across 21 states. He added that 19 are in northern Nigeria with Ogun and Oyo being the only two southern states with grazing reserves.
According to Mr Lai- Solarin, 141 of these reserves are gazetted and cover about 2.7m hectares of land. All the grazing reserves in total, cover 4,275,326 hectares of land, based on the National Grazing Reserve Law of 1965.
Speaking on the development on the floor of the senate yesterday, Senator Ajibola Basiru of Osun Central Senatorial District, said that there was no law on grazing routes in any part of Nigeria. He added that the law on grazing reserves, recognised as a state law in the 1999 constitution, actually criminalised open grazing.
Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has already advised the federal government to jettison grazing routes, while human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, criticised the justice minister Abubakar Malami, for misleading President Muhammadu Buhari on the existence of grazing routes in southern Nigeria. In his reaction to the ban on open grazing by southern governors, Mr Malami had said the ban by the Southern Governors Forum was unconstitutional, adding that open grazing in Nigeria was backed by law and gazetted.